The simplicity of Indian storytelling has influenced me
Oscar-Winning Russian Director, Actor, and the Head of Russian Cinematographer’s Union, Nikita Mikhalkov was recently in the country attending the International Film Festival of India. The multi-faceted personality was honored with the Life Time Achievement award at the festival. Known for his flawless execution of the art of filmmaking, Nikita Mikhalkov has created some phenomenal work in his long career. Catch him in a candid conversation where he expresses his affinity towards India and Raj Kapoor among other things.
Is this your first visit to the International Film Festival of India? Please tell us about your experience here.
I was in Delhi a long time ago, attending a festival for my first movie and that is where I met Raj Kapoor. India really impressed me from the start. It was the first time that I had seen a huge country where there was no envy or jealousy. I was really impressed and understood an amazing philosophical approach to life in India. The philosophy that says, “Today you have it, tomorrow I will have it, but it does not mean that I have to take it from you, I will have it because that is fair. Maybe not now, maybe later.” And that is a very interesting point. Since then I’ve meant to come back to India. Though this time it was a very short visit, but I would like to take more time here to really breathe in the amazing independent freedom, which does not limit the freedom of others.
What are your thoughts on IFFI as a platform for young filmmakers? How important are such platforms for the youth of today – be it India or abroad?
Competition is always important; it makes you want to be better. Though at times competition does lead to envy and evil, it is important. Fair judgment may not be possible all the time and at times there will be lots of other things, which will be in your way. Festivals in itself are like a platform where you can watch movies and learn from each other. The main thing is to learn, to take in a philosophical way and not get discouraged if you do not win the prize.
What fascinates you about Indian Cinema and how has it impacted your works? When and how did you first develop an interest in Indian films?
Indian movies were the only movies we were watching in our times, more than Polish cinema or any other films, besides our own movies. For me they were like a window to another world that was very special and for a lot of people it was a special joy that they were expecting. The simplicity of Indian storytelling has influenced me. It was very charming and I was always trying to tell my story in a simple way.
You have expressed your appreciation for Raj Kapoor. What did you like most about the filmmaker? Any favorite film of his?
Raj Kapoor is like a special hero for Russians. It is not like a director or an actor, he is like a separate system; unique in himself. We cannot just view him as an actor.
Do you think Indian audiences are more open to world cinema today than they were a few decades ago?
I don’t know and I cannot say for the Indian audience, but I think so. I think that is because of the Internet and possibility of fast speed communication and passing of information. Viewers are excited to see something different. But it would be sad if Indian viewers lose interest in their national cinema under the influence of foreign cinema.
An actor, filmmaker, and the head of the Russian Cinematographer’s Union – how do you juggle these roles and which one do you enjoy the most?
I am not trying to juggle the various roles. I am just interested in making movies. I like to be an artist and it is something that I have to do. I was never interested in administration work, but in Russia obedience is important too. If I had a choice I wouldn’t have chosen the administration part.
What advice would you like to give filmmakers and viewers in India?
Don’t lose the richness in your own cinema. Just make your own national movies that people in your own country will like. Just watch your own movies and don’t give money to somebody else.